I’m going to do it, jump right into the frying pan. This may be the single biggest mistake I’ve ever made and that includes the time I got out of my car and shut the door while it was still in drive. This might ruin my chances to run for Senator ever. It might prove to any uptight politically correct man or woman who reads this that – I am a bona fide, Neanderthal like – MISOGYNIST. But what is this blog for if not to share with you my most unpopular beliefs.
Now, it’s not true to my lights, but I really do know a few people who think I am a misogynist. When I say a few, that’s only including friends and family. I know why. When the differences between men and women comes up, my opinions aren't always politically correct, that's all. Nevertheless, I actually like women a lot (although I'm told that's not the issue (?)) and don't think women are inferior to men at all (although I've been told that I actually do). I have almost always had roughly as many women friends as men friends, at least since I graduated college anyway; even very close ones. I know I sound like the white guy who says some of my best friends are black, but some of my best friends are (or used to be) women.
No doubt, the last ten years or so, the frequency of contact with my female friends has definitely decreased. I don't have to be a scientist to notice that it has a lot to do with their having kids. I wasn’t involved in their kid’s world and it made me something less than a priority, and on a few occasions, pretty much close to zero priotity. That's life and you can't take it personally. Now, when my male friends had kids, they became busier, but that didn’t really decrease our contact to the same degree it did with female friends. But, it does seem to be a difference between men and women, and that interests me.
The fact that men and women have differences should be obvious – I mean, even other than the really obvious ones. Nevertheless, the prevailing politically correct mindset tells us that we are not supposed to notice or believe in differences between women and men, unless the difference is favors women (like the myth that women are stronger than men because they go through childbirth; it's not a myth that men get sleepier than women after sex, but, would we laugh at every mention of it if the reverse was true -- I don't think so). But the differences are still there as in days of old. For example, I personally know substantially more women than men who believe in ghosts or, possibly, far more women who will admit to it publicly. I haven't researched it much to see if that carries out across a broad spectrum of Americans, but, the differences where I have lived are large enough that I'd be surprised if it wasn't true. The few surveys I have seen were so divergent that I have trouble believing them, however, the women questioned did have something of a higher belief than men. Then again, so did more educated people. Probably, the percentage of people who believe in ghosts is so high, it might not amount to much.
Anyway, you can see why some people have called me a misogynist (not always women). I have been told I stereotype, which I really think is what they mean when they say "misogynist". I agree with them. I also stereotype men if what you mean by "stereotype" is that I believe there is nothing wrong with noticing differences between men and women or finding that interesting. There is a basis for these generalizations in that strange place we call the “real world”.
It does not mean, however, that I think all men or women are alike. Often I find when someone doesn’t like an opinion, they first overstate what was said, and then say it is an over-generalizing. I believe it is one of the most standard forms of false arguments, and for me, it prevents a real discussion, although I'm sure, like everyone, I have been guilty of it sometimes too. In my biased opinion, that is what some of my critics do, but, of course, they could just say I'm over-generalizing that too.
Before we get to the sex stuff, because that's the most interesting part, here’s one fairly innocuous example. Most guys I knew in New York didn’t like to dance very much – at least, not nearly as much as many women did. Now that I live in Virginia, I notice that women like to dance down here more than men too. Now, I have expressed that opinion on occasion and actually been told – “That’s not true; some guys like to dance. You are just generalizing”. Well, besides your wondering why I get into these arguments, of course I know there are guys who like to dance. But most guys I know don’t. I know women who don't like to dance too, but not so many. Now, don’t try asking these questions like this in a mixed group because I am telling you that some men will lie (and then tell you later – sorry, you know, the wife/girlfriend was listening. I've had that happen more than a few times in my life, even by some of the most politically correct men I know).
Maybe it’s not true in Greece or Saudi Arabia or other places either. I don't know. But, for the American male, it seems pretty much true. Here’s an interesting anecdotal fact. The best male dancer I know - the one all the girls want to see dance at parties - who seems to really enjoy it – he told me he really doesn’t like to do it very much – he is just pleasing his wife. Nothing wrong with that.
Now, the part I don’t understand is why some people take my opinions as a slight to women. As if I think women are inferior because they like to dance more than men.
Here’s another one, but this one's about sex. It has come up in conversations (for some reason, quite a few times) that many women in my age group have told me that they have lost interest in sex. Either they don’t want to have it anymore at all, or, they don’t care so much about it. Some have said to me that they like it well enough when it happens, but if they never have it again, that’s just fine. Of course, it’s not true for every woman. But, if it is true in general, it’s not an over-generalization. Now, I have to say that in speaking with women about this issue I find that if I say it (as opposed to a woman saying it), I am sometimes called a sexist or a misogynist, just to mention the nicer names (yes, I've also been called a man who wants women to be raped, bled, murdered and tortured, but that was by a close relative, so why go there?)
Now, I admit that I am generalizing about this from a relatively small sample, but, I do not think I am over-generalizing. There is a lot of evidence supporting it. For one thing, polls, surveys and scientific studies all seem to support this proposition overwhelmingly. Hell, even Oprah had a show on it recently and if that isn't authoritative in America, what is (I'm kidding, you Oprah haters our there, but she did do a show on it)? When surveys ask people if they had an extra hour would they prefer sex or sleep (sometimes other things), more men choose sex and more women choose sleep. A Canadian poll reconfirmed that this past year. A few years ago a U.S. poll showed that men chose sex first in that situation but women listed it ninth. Again, to ward off the naysayers, it doesn’t mean that this is always the case or that there aren’t those for whom it isn't the opposite. However, I can't help but notice that some take this suggestion as an insult to women and some folks just won’t believe it.
Now, here's where the differences get really interesting to me. It has always seemed to me that young women I knew had more of an interest in lesbianism than men I knew did in homosexuality. I was not unaware, of course, that the social taboos might just mean more women were going to acknowledge it than men. However, scientific studies seem to show that that the things that turn on men and women are quite different, and I don’t just mean being interested in the opposite sex.
Here’s a strange fact I learned from a fascinating New York Times Magazine article (1/25/09 - Bergner) from which I culled much of the sexual research I'm discussing). Technological marvels like MRI’s and genital measuring devices called plethysmographs now allow scientists to tell what cues arouse men and women. Men seem to be attracted to very specific things – if they are straight, watching women exercising, masturbating, having heterosexual sex or lesbian sex is a turn on. Even gay men seem to react to the same type of thing except, obviously, in reverse, they are physiologically aroused by men, rather than women.
But, women seemed to be physiologically aroused by any sex they see. It didn’t seem to matter who was on screen – a man and woman, two women, and whether having sex, or masturbating or even exercising. And, I'm not making this up, even watching monkeys having sex. And it didn’t matter if they were straight or lesbian. If you want to look it up, the experiment was by Meredith Chivers of King’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Relax. She’s not suggesting that women secretly want to have sex with monkeys but she and other scientists are having trouble figuring it out why they get aroused. Even women sexologists admit that it is easy to understand male sexuality, but not women’s sexuality. I suppose that might be deemed insulting by some too, but you only have to read a little of this stuff to see it's the case. You can doubt Chivers’ finding, of course, but, according to her extensive review of the scientific literature, similar results have been found by other scientists over and over again.
Here’s another weird thing. In the same study, they also recorded the subjects own views of which scenes aroused them and compared them with their physiological reactions. Women seemed either to be lying or just didn’t know when they were being physiologically aroused. Chivers found that heterosexual women underreported their arousal during lesbian scenes, and even more so, homosexual scenes, and overreported when watching heterosexual sex. When lesbian women watched other lesbians they seemed to get it right, but they also underreported their arousal by watching heterosexual sex. Both women's groups severely underreported arousal while watching the monkeys. What’s going on? If you are a man reading this, you are probably just glad that women are turned on watching other women have sex, even if they won’t admit it. But monkeys? Frankly, wouldn't you have guessed it would have been the other way around on that one.
Now, I don't think the results are because women are more lustful than men. If anything, I think that the time period where they are about the same is a limited one, and otherwise men are more lustful, and there are studies which suggest that is the case. And it is definitely not because women are more "perverted" than men according to social mores. If women could read men's minds they would probably be really disgusted by us and no, I'm not just projecting.
A psychologist at CSU has also found an interesting result showing another sexual difference between men and women which relates to Chivers’ findings. It appears that the more highly sexed someone is (self reported), the more they follow the patterns Chivers found. That is, the more highly sexed a straight man is, the more he is aroused by women alone and the more highly sexed a gay man is, the more likely it is that he is focused on other men alone. However, the results for straight women show, the more highly sexed they were, the more they were aroused by men and other women too.
It seems possible that the differences in these studies were caused by cultural inhibitions. But, that theory might not pan out. Scientists have actually been able to locate the parts of the brain that are triggered by inhibition. A recent MRI study showed that those parts of the brain weren’t triggered when either men or women were aroused by pictures which were not socially acceptable. This would seem to go against the cultural explanation, although it is also possibly that the scientists just don't understand the brain chemistry well enough at this point.
Of course, sexologists have found other fascinating facts about the differences between men and woman, far too many to try to talk about here. Some of them seem obvious to me. It might not surprise you to learn that men seemed to get aroused just by increasing blood flow to their penis, like with Viagra, but women seem to need a psychological adjustment to get turned on. There is also some indication that increases in serotonin or anti-depression medication tends to increase female lust, but not male, which may show that the likelihood that women's arousal is more psychological than men's. Now, that would have been my guess in the first place (but, beware the political correctness police). However, testosterone treatments, primarily a male hormone, seems to work to increase either men or women's arousal, although cancer risks have limited the experimentation.
A study from a University in Wales recently confirmed that women actually find men in expensive cars more attractive than ones in less expensive cars. They found this by asking women to rate pictures of men in cars. Of course, they used the same guy in different cars in order to get their result. What's interesting is not just that they were more attracted to the nicer car, but actually thought the guy was nicer looking. They did not find the same results with men. The men cared about her face and figure. Women attracted to money and power and as shallow in their own way as men? Now, this should be obvious to people just by living in the world, and I'm glad to have this study on my side because I have been told that I'm out of my mind in believing it. Maybe people just like to argue.
Studies of rape fantasies might make you cringe a little. If you really want to infuriate the politically correct, discuss these scientific studies at a mixed party. Apparently, at least a third if not over half of women seemed to have had rape fantasies (from an article in The Journal of Sex Research), and about ten percent fairly frequently. However, and this is the tricky part, there is also evidence that suggests that some women not only get aroused when actually being sexually assaulted, and in rare cases, actually have had an orgasm during the assault. Rape fantasies are far from unknown, of course, but women who have them say they would not want to be raped and I believe it. However, sometimes physiological reactions trump psychological ones even when it makes us feel uncomfortable.
I feel safe to say that many, if not most men I know well, would not be offended if it was suggested that if they were powerless to stop a sexual assault by someone they were attracted to, they might become aroused. I feel just as safe to say most of the women I know would not be pleased by the idea. Some would be outraged. In fact, I really don’t recommend you discussing this at all with a women who doesn’t bring it up herself and, really, how often is that going to happen? If you are a woman and you are reading this I FEEL MY PERSONAL SAFETY REQUIRES ME TO REPEAT THAT I AM NOT SAYING THAT SOME WOMEN ACTUALLY WANT TO BE RAPED AND PLEASE DON’T HATE (OR INJURE) ME. Focus your wrath on the sexologists who do these studies.
The Archives of Sexual Behaviors is a treasure trove of completely politically unacceptable studies such as suggesting that women are more turned on by sex with strangers; that their desire is connected by their narcissistic desire to be wanted; that while looking at pornography straight men study women’s faces and bodies, but straight women study men’s faces and the women’s bodies; men are coercive about sex to feel power and control, but when women are, it's in order to feel a psychological connection and out of control at the same time. You can read abstracts and short previews of the articles in the Archives online. The Journal of Sex Research cannot be read online although you can view the contents there and order them. Am I crazy or is this stuff fun? When I was a psych major we studied rats. Interesting, but not so interesting.
Of course, because I would rather not bore you, I left out all the mundane and overly intellectual stuff you can read about in these journals too. But, there’s lots of titillating stuff there too. Have fun, but my advice, if you are a male, particularly a married one, keep the stuff you read there to yourself in mixed company. Leave the politically incorrect stuff to us bachelors, because husbands having to occasionally sleep on couches is not a myth either.
- I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .